Chesterton Tribune

Ton defends Morgan Park in face of ambulance barn rezone request

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No one knows what sort of business might move into the building at the southwest corner of Ind. 49 and East Porter Ave. currently used as an ambulance station by Porter hospital—if the Chesterton Town Council were to approve a requested re-zoning of the 2.4-acre site from Residential-2 to Business-2.

But Town Council Member Jim Ton, R-1st—a former resident himself of the Morgan Park neighborhood just north of the ambulance station and across the street—wants some assurances that Morgan Park’s character won’t be damaged by the re-zone.

The Advisory Plan Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the re-zone petition—filed by the Porter County Commissioners, who own the ambulance station—at its next meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 17. Planners will then forward their recommendation to the council.

Attorney Greg Babcock, representing the County Commissioners, told planners at their last meeting that his clients are willing to exclude certain future uses on the parcel, including nursing home, retirement village, greenhouse, all auto-service uses, retail food sales and service, and recreational uses.

That’s well and good, Ton said at Monday’s council meeting, but “that is a residential area, by and large. Morgan Park was the first subdivision in Chesterton and it’s been a struggle to maintain a neighborhood feel.”

Ton did note that businesses currently in neighborhood—located chiefly along Roosevelt Street, including the Chesterton branch of Horizon Bank and the Duneland YMCA—“have done a commendable job of fitting into the neighborhood.”

But Chesterton does not need another business entry into town, with the South Calumet District on one end and Indian Boundary Road on the other.

It’s also worth remembering, Ton added, that Chesterton Cemetery will eventually extend all the way east to the property line of the ambulance station building, and it’s important to retain a reverence for the departed there.

“People in Morgan Park will be watching what happens on that corner,” Ton concluded.

DeLaney Corrects Ziska

Meanwhile, Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, took a moment at the end of Monday’s meeting to correct a statement made in another newspaper by his opponent in the municipal primary election on May 3, Tristan Ziska.

Ziska made this statement: “We’re spending $170,000 on a ‘Welcome to Chesterton’ sign when half of Downtown Chesterton is for rent.”

In fact, as DeLaney observed, the Town of Chesterton spent nothing at all on the sign and no public funds “in any way, shape, or form” will be expended on it. The Chesterton / Duneland Chamber of Commerce has plans to build that sign—on the west side of Ind. 49—and to fund the project by renting out space on the sign to Chamber members.

Vacation Granted

In other business, members voted 5-0 to approve on first reading an ordinance which vacates a portion of unimproved alley between the 200 blocks of South 20th and South 19th streets, 5-0 to suspend the rules, then 5-0 to approve that ordinance on final reading.

Debra Wysong, who resides in the 200 block of South 20th Street, requested the vacation, told the council that she wants to do some plantings behind her home, and noted that other residents in the neighborhood have built sheds and fences on the right-of-way.

At a public hearing which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition but Robert Carney, who resides in the 200 block of South 19th Street—directly behind Wysong—remonstrated against it.

Carney told the council that his home is served by a well and that, should his well need repairs, the heavy equipment would need to access his backyard via the right-of-way.

That won’t happen, though, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg said. It can’t happen. “There’s sheds, fences, overgrown shrubs. You couldn’t get down there if you needed to. (The Street Department hasn’t) been down there in many, many years.”

Schnadenberg did say that, to his knowledge, none of the residents who have built sheds or fences in the right-of-way ever petitioned the council for a vacation. Some of those structures, he added, have been there 25 years or more.

DeLaney, for his part, wanted to know whether Carney has at least eight feet of side-yard space. Carney said that he does. “Newer rigs”—for repairing wells—“can get in there,” DeLaney responded. “That’s all I wanted to know. I personally don’t see an issue in vacating this.”

“If we vacate this,” Ton remarked, “it seems to me we should regulate the things on the right-of-way that hasn’t been vacated.”

Members accordingly suggested to Building Commissioner Dave Novak that he make inquiries.

Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann did assure Carney that every vacation ordinance which he prepares includes a clause reserving the town’s right to a utility easement on the vacated right-of-way. “That’s an important safeguard,” Lukmann said.


Posted 4/26/2011